There's a different blue glow in the pre-dawn sky over Texas this morning. It's the diamond light of productivity from internet-connected laptops and smart phones aboard Southwest Airlines flight 1 between Dallas Love Field and Houston Hobby Airport.
I started this blog from my middle seat at 33-thousand feet with both my MacBook and iPhone tethered to the internet as we speed toward the Texas Gulf Coast.
"This is cool!" I heard Gary Tsatch say as he enabled wi-fi connectivity on his iPhone. All the while, he remained in 'airplane mode' while firmly planted in his comfy aisle seat. ( Cellular technology is not compatible with the internet service offered by Row 44, Southwest Airlines' partner in this first-of-its-kind offering of satellite-based internet service on a major US airline. )
Tsatch, who commutes three or four times monthly to manage databases for clients across Texas and Oklahoma, was pleased to learn he was experiencing another first in the sky.
"I was onboard the first 727 from DFW to LAX with Airphone technology back in the 1980s," said Tastch. Other US airlines which have recently begun offering wi-fi service on select routes and limited aircraft rely on those same land-based towers to get connected.
As we passed through 10-thousand feet elevation, most of us sitting on the aircraft quickly grabbed our technology of choice to take advantage of the new wi-fi offering. The system was working overtime to keep up but as soon as it kicked in so did we and..there was no looking back for the Customers onboard. I managed several e-mail replies and letters during the 44 minute flight.
"Anytime I can knock out e-mails and take care of things if I have a few minutes of downtime, it saves interruptions later," Tsatch conferred with a colleague in the seat in front of him, who was also online.
Southwest Airlines is testing the service pending FCC approval and is currently offering it to Customers free of charge on one 737-700 aircraft. By early March, four of Southwest Airlines' aircraft will be internet-capable.